Philanthropy 101?  CCSU to Offer Course, Capstone Project Aimed at Boosting Philanthropy

Throughout Connecticut, philanthropic organizations distribute more than a billion dollars every year and individuals donate nearly $4 billion more. Responding to both the State’s philanthropic needs and need for skilled philanthropy professionals, Central Connecticut State University is offering an innovative course in the practice of philanthropy beginning next semester. The ambitious 16-week course is to include 25 presenters from local nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, many based in New Britain, as is the CCSU campus.   As part of the course, students will study local needs, create a case study, and write a proposal following the American Savings Foundation grant-making guidelines.  Officials say that at the conclusion of the course, up to two of these projects may each be funded with a $5,000 grant from the American Savings Foundation.

Connecticut ranked 47th among the 50 states in philanthropic giving as a percentage of income, with a “giving ratio” of 2.4 percent, 25 percent lower than the national average, according to an analysis earlier this year by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The giving ratio is the total of a locality’s charitable contributions as a share of its total adjusted gross income.

“They will learn more than just philosophy,” points out Professor Carol Shaw Austad, who will co-teach with former CCSU President Richard Judd. “This class is hands-on. Students will work in teams to design a philanthropic strategy. They will meet with New Britain nonprofits and evaluate impact, just like any foundation. We expect them to make a strong case statement for an organization or project.”

“There is so much to like about this course,” notes Maria Falvo, president of the American Savings Foundation.  “For one, many of these young people may go on to work at or volunteer with nonprofits. They may be fortunate enough to become donors themselves. This essential training lays the groundwork for a future in philanthropy,” Falvo says.

The giving percentage varied across the state, according to the Chronicle study:  the Fairfield County giving ratio was 2.8%, New Haven County and Litchfield counties 2.1%, Hartford County 1.9%, New London County 1.8%, Middlesex and Tolland Counties 1.7%, and Windham County 1.6%.

Donations from households earning $200,000 or more now total 52 percent of all itemized contributions. In the early 2000s, that number was consistently in the 30s, the Chronicle reported.  The report raises questions about the traditional habit of charitable donations among middle and low income individuals lessening, perhaps as a lingering after-effect of the recession. The Chronicle’s conclusion: “The number of households making room in their budgets for charitable giving is shrinking.”

CCSU President Dr. Zulma R. Toro said “I am especially pleased that this course engages our hometown of New Britain. This is a perfect example of what we mean by “CCSUConnected.” We are connecting to our communities in a mutually beneficial way by engaging our students academically in the life of our community. Our students learn skills and experiences that can prepare them for rewarding careers, and our communities can benefit from our students’ work focused on New Britain’s needs.”

“These community leaders are such a diverse and thoughtful group,” said Dr. Toro.  “Pastor Thomas Mills of Grace Church shares a session with New Britain Mayor (and CCSU alumna) Erin Stewart.  Dr. Ali Antar of the Berlin Mosque is on the agenda as is Dr. Claudia Thesing, formerly director of development at the New Britain Museum of American Art.  The speakers represent a real cross-section of the community.”

The course will run from January 17 to May 9, and is open to undergraduate students at CCSU.